Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest game from Nintendo for the struggling Wii U console. With sales at dangerously low numbers and 3rd party publishers falling off like rotten bananas, a lot of pressure is on Retro Studio’s next entry in the Donkey Kong series to perform well and move a few Wii U’s off the store shelves.
After playing the first few levels, you can be forgiven if you think the game is merely an HD version of the previous game, Donkey Kong Country Returns from the Nintendo Wii. Sporting a 1080p palette and smooth 60 frames per second, the game looks beautiful and is still hard…very, very hard.
One of the new features of the game is that the player is no longer tied to Diddy Kong as the only side kick. Donkey Kong is now able to utilize Dixie and Kranky Kong as partners, each bringing their own unique ability to the mix. Diddy’s jet pack along with Dixie’s aerial hair gliding and Cranky’s pogo stick cane allows for the player to tackle each level differently. Hidden areas, KONG letters and puzzle pieces are strewn throughout every level and many of them simply can not be collected without the help of your primate pals.
Donkey Kong himself is all thumbs when it comes to his movements. His jumps are light, hard to control and his swimming handles like the Titanic trying to avoid an iceberg. This gets exceedingly frustrating as you get further into the game where pixel perfect timing is required lest you fall to certain doom. Thankfully the game throws extra life balloons and bananas at you so the game over screen never becomes an issue until the later stages. If you have ever played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls the feeling of death as a learning experience is very similar, just a lot prettier and whimsical.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze does not deviate from its tried and true formula. Each world is populated by the invading arctic penguins and sea lions who have taken to wearing viking helmets and armor. Bringing winter to the tropical paradise on the same day as Donkey Kong’s birthday has the furry ape on a quest to thaw out his friends and his bananas.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is another solid entry into the slowly growing Wii U library featuring Nintendo’s most popular characters. The music is catchy, the visuals are full of whimsy and the game play is maddening but addictive all at the same time. Even with all of these elements, the game lacks the “must have” factor. The Wii U needs to sell units and Tropical Freeze is not the game to do that.. Like the games released on the platform so far, it is a natural evolution of the series rather than a leap forward. Without a “killer app” for the Wii U, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze will be a slow moving glacier on a platform that is not moving anywhere quickly.